Bellingham makes room for Makeworth Market
Customers enjoy the upstairs seating, where floor to ceiling windows bring in lots of light. // Photo by Emily Porter
By Kayla Sousa
When people first walk into Makeworth Market, they are greeted by expansive white walls with neutral black and gold accents and plump, green succulents on the tables. The smell of fresh coffee brewing and the slight buzz of people chatting with one another creates a pleasant ambience.
Whether people take a seat on the first floor or the second-floor mezzanine, they can feel sunlight pouring in and watch others strolling down the street through the large windows of Bellingham’s newest coffee shop boutique.
Makeworth Market opened Saturday, May 12 at 1201 N State St. The new downtown spot features coffee and beer, baked goods and an assortment of items from different local businesses.
Four couples came together as owners to begin this business almost two years ago. For those business owners, Makeworth Market goes beyond just serving coffee and selling retail items.
“Our mission is to create a place where people could come together,” co-owner Corey Silversmith said. “A place where people could feel comfortable, not judged, well-served and cared about through the culture we have here.”
Silversmith was born on the East Coast and moved to the Northwest at the age of 15. Silversmith said there were a few major factors that went into choosing Bellingham for their business.
“Bellingham is sort of like a diamond in the rough,” Silversmith said. “There are cool, old buildings and great people. It’s a good spot.”
Silversmith’s wife is from the area and after travelling here, they were inspired by how the coffee scene and beer culture provide a vibe they had never experienced elsewhere.
Co-owner KJ Plank grew up in Bellingham and said he is proud to invest in the community that has given so much to him over the years.
Plank described the shop’s opening weekend as unforgettable.
“[Opening weekend was] 16 ounces of emotion and one pump of pure terror,” Plank said.
Plank said it is important to connect with others. He said connections enhance people’s lives and sense of community, which is an important part of their business’ vision.
“It’s not simply an elevated coffee or retail experience,” Plank said. “It’s a place for people to find genuine connection with each other.”
The shop contains a mix of long tables for communal seating on the first floor, where strangers can sip their drinks and strike up a conversation, as well as smaller, more personal tables spread across the top floor.
Next to the coffee bar, there are tall chairs where people can sit and enjoy their beverage and think about ordering one of the treats artfully displayed on the counter by local bakery Gathered Confections.
“Nothing would make me happier than if Makeworth Market earned a reputation for being the most customer-centric business in Bellingham,” Plank said. “Everyone on our team — from the owners to our great employees — genuinely cares about each person that comes through our doors.”
Two friends, April McCabe and Constance Browne, visited the store on a coffee date. McCabe said she and Browne were looking for a new place to go and that she had been keeping her eyes on the space since construction.
“We both like trying new things and supporting local places,” Browne said.
The pair expressed that their first thought upon entering the space was the beauty of the interior.
“If I was still a student, I would really like how they have lots of seats,” McCabe said. “Sometimes, I wouldn’t go to a coffee shop because they don’t have the comfy chair I want to sit in.”
McCabe also enjoyed a slice of cake from the selection of goods from Gathered Confections. Makeworth Market is currently featuring slices of cake and scones from the pop-up bakery.
“The cake was phenomenal,” McCabe said. “I wasn’t planning on getting it, but I was glad I did.”
Browne also said she likes that the store has plenty of seating available. Sitting on the mezzanine level, she looked down onto the first level where there were three students at a long table.
“Down there, there’s three students sitting together on their laptops,” Browne said. “I like that there are large community tables in here with spaces for people to do that.”
One of those students was Alex Fortescue. Fortescue was on his laptop, studying and drinking a pour-over coffee. The coffee comes in a hand-crafted mug made by local Bellingham business June Pottery, for in-house use.
Fortescue said he and his friends walked by and thought the shop looked unique. He immediately noticed the windows at Makeworth, he said.
“I am definitely going to come back,” Fortescue said. “This is one of my new favorite coffee spots.”
Co-owner Michel Borden is a filmmaker by trade from San Diego, California. Borden said his inspiration for starting Makeworth Market with the team stemmed from spending much of his time in coffee shops.
Borden said Makeworth’s true mission is painted on the store’s back wall, which reads, “We belong together.”
“You can come and disappear in a corner and feel like you could stay all day,” Borden said.
Borden said the four couples have never owned a retail business or coffee shop before. He said he feels that opening Makeworth Market is filling a community need for a big space where Western students can come to hang out.
“The reason why we painted everything so bright and light [is because] the northwest can get a little dark and cloudy,” Borden said. “We wanted to have a nice and warm space to lift people’s spirits.”
The vision of neutral colors dominating the shop’s walls was to invite people into the store and out of the rain to enjoy brightness even on dark days, Silversmith said.
“Our hope is to grow it and curate our retail selection to something people would enjoy and might not be used to,” Silversmith said.
He said the shop’s retail section is a collection of handcrafted items from a handful of artists and businesses that the Makeworth team knows personally or have partnered with before in other endeavors.
Retail director of Makeworth Market, Brittany O’Brien, owned Spruce, a celebration and stationary shop in downtown Bellingham, for six years before joining the Makeworth team.
“She is such an important piece of our business,” Borden said about O’Brien. “It is an honor to have her on our team.”
With part of the team from California and part of the team from Washington, the shop’s definition of “local products” spans both states.
O’Brien describes their local selection of retail as, “SoCal meets Pacific Northwest vibes.”
As featured on the Makeworth Market Instagram account, some of the backpacks and apparel in the shop are from Bradley Mountain, a handmade leather goods shop in San Diego.
Makeworth Market also carries original artwork for sale by Bellingham residing artist and designer Quinn of Quinnarie paper co., who painted the shop’s mural.
O’Brien said the business has both a consignment model and wholesale model for retail.
She explained that the consignment model is a good way to build relationships between the artisan and the customer.
The consignment items are made to order and often in a smaller quantity which allows for the retailer to gauge customer engagement with those exclusive items versus wholesale, which is purchased in higher quantities.
At Spruce, O’Brien said she used to host monthly workshops that ranged from calligraphy classes to gift-wrapping depending on the season. O’Brien said she plans to piggyback off of that original idea and is currently working with the owners to create an event calendar for Makeworth Market.
The plans for these workshops for the new shop will be themed around coffee, beer and retail and will also include meet-the-artist type events.
Borden said that starting a business has been really stressful with ups and downs but also became one of the best weekends of his life.
“We have a really good family around us and it will be successful because of this,” Borden said.
He said their team invested a lot in getting the doors to Makeworth Market open and they are thrilled that the community has showed up in full force.
Borden said that for him, opening day was incredibly emotional.
“We had so much help from so many people [and] the city of Bellingham,” he said. “So many people volunteered their time.”
For Silversmith, opening Makeworth Market is a 15-year-old dream coming to life.
“I dreamt of opening a place for people to gather and [have] conversations from a really young age,” Silversmith said.